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Author

Melanie Cooke

Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Cindy Bukach

Abstract

This study investigated our natural ability to recognize fleeting facial expressions of emotion within and across race to determine the presence and salience of an Other-Race Effect (ORE), a phenomenon in which recognition of own-race facial expressions is better than recognition of other-race facial expressions. Previous literature has shown that OREs do exist in emotion recognition; however, the underlying mechanisms that produce OREs are still unknown. Participants in this study were shown a series of faces that changed in both emotion and exposure duration, and they were asked to identify which of five basic emotions they saw. These emotions included anger, disgust, fear, sadness, and neutral expressions, and they were displayed on faces of both Black and Caucasian individuals. As predicted, Caucasian participants achieved 80% accuracy at a lower exposure duration when recognizing emotions on own-race faces (M= 352ms) as opposed to other-race faces (M= 380ms), p= .006. By manipulating exposure durations, we were able to capture encoding efficiency and conclude that individuals encode own-race faces more efficiently than other-race faces, which could help explain the ORE. Qualitative analysis to determine emotion confusions showed that, generally, faces were (mis)interpreted similarly; however, sadness and neutral expressions showed ownrace/other-race biases. Incorporating the detection of fleeting expressions with an ORE could offer invaluable insight into the way humans process the facial expressions of own/other race individuals and make quick judgments about them; practical application of these results include more effective training in law enforcement sectors.

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